Balancing balls Newton's cradle


Physics is a natural science and a part of natural philosophy that involves the study of matter and its motion through time and space, along with similar concepts such as force and energy. It looks to understand how the universe acts and behaves. It is one of the oldest academic disciplines in the world, and it intersects with areas of research like quantum chemistry and biophysics. Physics also contributes significantly through theoretical breakthroughs that create advances in new technology.

Program Information

The University of Chicago has one of the best physics programs in the country. The Department of Physics offers an undergraduate major in physics. The major covers the fundamentals required for graduate study and places a strong importance on experiments and labs. Introductory and advanced physics and mathematics courses and physics electives make up the degree requirements. The program can be completed in 3 years, and students who wish to major in physics are recommended to start course work in their freshman year. MIT is another top school with an excellent physics program. The undergraduate degree at MIT provides an excellent basis for graduate study in physics or related fields and for professional work in fields such as biophysics, geophysics, and astrophysics. The core requirements start the process, and the student then chooses one of two paths to finish the degree. The focused option is designed for students who want to pursue a career in physics. An important aspect of this option is the physics research thesis. The flexible option is designed for people who may not want to pursue a graduate degree in physics, and provides excellent preparation for careers in law, medicine, business or engineering.

physics student

Pros & Cons

There are both pros and cons of pursing a degree in physics. A physics degree can lead to a career as a physicist. Physicists have high salaries (average salary of $112 000 in 2011) and an excellent job growth (increase of 14% over the next decade). A degree in physics open up many career paths, and gives you the opportunity to specialize in one of the many subfields including astronomy, medical physics, and nuclear physics. A career in physics usually provides regular and stable work hours as well. One of the downsides to an undergraduate degree in physics is that many positions will require you to take more schooling. For many research positions you will need at least a master’s degree, and preferably a Ph.D. The job market is also competitive, especially entry level positions. The coursework can be challenging, and will require a lot of studying. Some job positions require federal security clearance or state certification (depending what field you enter), and some lab work can expose you to hazardous chemicals and conditions.

Graduate School & Career

MIT, Harvard University, and Stanford University all offer some of the top physics graduate programs in the country. Some potential careers in physics include working in education. A physics degree allows you to pursue a teaching position, either in high school or university (further schooling will be required though). Another career option is a Laboratory Technician. People with physics degrees are eligible for a wide range of technical jobs, including radiation monitoring, instrument operation, and meteorology studies. Physics Researchers work to learn new things about physics in specific areas such as nuclear physics, optical physics, astrophysics and astronomy. Lastly, physic degrees work well with computer science degrees, and can lead to specialized professions like aircraft design and computer programming.